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Motive and Rightness$
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Steven Sverdlik

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199594948

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199594948.001.0001

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Doing the Right Thing from Malice

Doing the Right Thing from Malice

(p.126) 7 Doing the Right Thing from Malice
Motive and Rightness

Steven Sverdlik (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

The deontic relevance of motives in virtue ethics is examined. Various types of virtue ethics are distinguished. Only some of them endorse the usage of the deontic concepts of obligation, wrongness, and permissibility. Hursthouse's neo‐Aristotelian theory is a type of virtue ethics that utilizes deontic concepts, but it yields a completely objective conception of deontic status. That is, motives never make a difference to the deontic status of an action. This is problematic. Michael Slote's non‐Aristotelian theory is examined next. In his theory a motive like malice is strongly wrong‐making: any action from malice is wrong. An example of a prosecutor acting from malice is considered. Slote's position that such a person necessarily acts wrongly is refuted. Further objections to his position are presented. Slote's recent position aligns him with Hursthouse. Virtue ethics oscillates between asserting that motives are never relevant deontically and asserting that some motives are strongly wrong‐making.

Keywords:   virtue ethics, motives, Rosalind Hursthouse, Michael Slote, Aristotle, moral wrongness, moral obligation, neo‐Aristotelianism

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